Last week we heard from Justin regarding his perspective on how his faith impacted the Camino experience and how the Camino, in turn, impacted his faith. Today, we hear from Patrick. Thank you again to Hannah Hartzell for asking the question “How did your faith impact your journey, and what has this journey taught you about God?” Patrick’s perspective is a little different.
The Camino is many things to many people. Some embark on the pilgrimage for religious reasons, others embrace the physical challenge, some choose the Camino as a way to process grief or struggles they face, and many find their way to the ancient trail not really knowing why they are there but sure there is no other place they should be. However, everyone I have spoken to about his or her experience agrees on one thing; regardless of the reason for going, all experience new levels of human connection and embrace the spiritual nature of humanity… community as God intended it.
I found my way to the Camino through a unique set of circumstances. Justin felt the call and he asked me my thoughts about a wheelchair attempt. When I said, “I’ll push you,” I didn’t have any draw to the Camino itself, just a desire to spend the time with my best friend.
Prior to embarking on our 500-mile wheelchair journey through Spain, I was experiencing a significant evolution in my faith. Raised in a Christian home, faith and religion were inextricably connected… you couldn’t have one without the other, and often religion was seen as the foundation of faith. But over the years, the flaws in this way of thinking had become more apparent. Legalism often abounds in religion, but the cornerstone of the Christian church, Jesus, was anything but legalistic and everything he did was focused on relationship… everything was motivated by love. In fact, relationship trumped religion every single time.
My days on the Camino at my best friends side opened my eyes to the beauty that exists within humanity. The relationships we formed with people stepping in to offer us assistance, to spend time with us, and choosing to love us was incredible. Some offered help for minutes, others for hours, and some for days and even weeks. Men and women from all walks of life and all faith backgrounds, or lack there of, offered their hands and feet in so many hours of need.
Many people say, “The Camino provides.” I’m not sure I agree with this. The Camino offered an environment where I wasn’t distracted with the pressures of daily life. As a result, I was more aware of the people around me, more aware of their love and what they had to offer. I would argue that people have always been there, ready to help, eager to love and be loved. We just don’t always take the time to invest in the relationships necessary to connect us with these people. With a deeper awareness of my fellow man and a longing to embrace each and every relationship offered, both Justin and I experienced love and generosity in profound ways.
My faith in my fellow man and in God has been transformed by my experiences on an ancient trail half way across the world. And this faith that was evolving as I took my first step on the Camino, continues to do so. But my faith in God and my faith in man have led me to this truth. God so often provides through the hands and feet of our brothers and sisters. This provision is made possible because of the relationships we possess, not the religious dogma we follow or the checklists we click through to align with doctrine. Jesus taught so many lessons of love and his life demonstrated the power that exists within relationship. Our motivation for living like Him is so very important. If we do so, simply to follow rules, because of fear, or because of guilt; we miss the mark.
Just like Jesus, everything we do should be motivated by love. Any other motivation is meaningless.